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The Joy of Sharing

Mission Afrika’s Management Report 2017, By Secretary-General Peter Fischer-Nielsen

The Joy of Sharing

Mission has been described as the church’s breath and heartbeat. As a human being draws in a breath and exhales, it is equally as natural that a Christian should receive and share the grace, power and blessing stored in the Gospel.

 

We all know the joy of being able to give and receive. Whoever we are, and wherever we live, we all need for help and encouragement, just as we also all have something to share.

That is also the case in missionary work and in the global church. Missionary work being the church’s breath and heartbeat not only to us in Denmark, but equally to our international partners, giving at least as much as they receive. The activities and projects, that Mission Afrika support, would not have been a reality, if there weren’t local churches and Christians, who burned to make a difference in the communities to which they belong.

In May we saw a beautiful example of reciprocity in the global church. The Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), which missionaries from Mission Afrika have helped establish and develop, has since grown to be a large church with about two million members. At the General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Namibia, the archbishop of the Church, Musa Panti Filibus, was elected new president of the LWF. This means that he and LCCN will greatly influence the development of the worldwide Lutheran church over the coming years. This amazing story is just one example of how we’ve experienced that the relationship with our partners is a constant exchange of gifts and inspiration.

Volunteering is growing

Also here in Denmark, many people have experienced the joy of receiving and sharing, through their work with Mission Afrika. Throughout our 74 charity stores, 2.100 volunteers have dedicated their time to create a surplus for Mission Afrika’s work, while enjoying the kind and warm working communities in the stores.

The five volunteer project groups have put a lot of energy and commitment into the tasks and activities, that they work in unison to solve. Recently, a new project group has emerged, focusing on the work of the Christian TV station SAT-7. Great efforts are also still being made in the districts in relation to prayer, collection and information sharing about the development of missionary work. In many other ways, we have seen the commitment unfold and it is still clear that missionary work is at heart for a great many people in Denmark.

Volunteering is a strong focus of Mission Afrika in recent years. Mission must never be a task only for the salaried. The Great Commission applies to all Christians, and we must continue to find ways, in which we can spread the task to as many as possible. Not only because we know a joint effort can accomplish more, but also because it is a blessing for all to be able to be part of God’s fantastic mission in the world!

This is why Development of volunteering is also one of the four visionary goals, that we’re working towards in these years. Based on the document “Vision 2020”, we are also working with the objectives: Capacity building and project development, Training of pastors and leaders, and Strengthening of the Christian Church’s meeting with Muslims.

This year we have chosen to focus especially on the objective that concerns the church’s meeting with Muslims. This meeting has always been important to Mission Afrika, and the recent decades of development in the world, have only increased this importance.

Also in Denmark do we discuss, how we as a church and as Christians should relate to the Muslims who live in our country.  At Mission Afrika we would like to be ready for this meeting. As Christians, we have a double vocation towards Muslims: We are called to seek peace, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations with all people, and we must also do this to Muslims both at home and abroad. Simultaneously, we are also called to evangelize and declare our faith. Both aspects are necessary parts of our work as a missionary organization, and one must not be dimmed in favor of the other. And both vocations must be brought to life with love, care and respect – and not with hate or fear – as a driving force.

Activities in Africa and the Middle East

The engagement and missionary zeal at home and abroad have been expressed in many different ways in Mission Afrika’s work in the past year. Let me give some examples of activities and projects, that we in cooperation with our international partners, have been able to launch and support in Africa and the Middle East:

With a recently updated scholarship- and capacity building project, we have been able to provide many people an education or further education in order to carry out important tasks for their churches and communities. Among other things, we have covered the tuition fees for a whole team of seminarians in Cameroon (EFLC), financed workshops for pastors and school teachers in Nigeria (LCCN) and supported executive training at the SAT-7 TV station.

Education already begins with proper schooling. In the Central African Republic, schooling has been lacking due to war and turmoil, and it is therefore very pleasing that we have been able to establish five new school and secured schooling for 607 children. This has been done in cooperation with our local partners, Eglise Evangélique Luthérienne de la RCA (EELRCA).

We wish to build up our partners, so they can better create income for the activities and projects, that they want to bring to life, so they with time can be less economically dependant on us. The establishment of “Euroshop” in Mali, is an exciting new project in that direction. In cooperation with the Danish clothing manufacturer HRT Textiles and volunteering Danes, we’ve been able to supply our partner in Mali (Mission Fraternelle Lutherienne au Mali, MFLM) with high quality clothing, which is sold and creates a surplus to be used on local activities. While also helping them develop other revenue-generating projects.

For several years, we have supported Christian-Muslim dialogue activities in northern Cameroon through our partner Eglise Fraternelle Luthérienne du Cameroun (EFLC). Now we are seeing the activities moving from the management level to the important grassroot level. Recently, with the help of the Danish Mission Council Development Department, supported a conference in which particular attention was focused on how young Christians and Muslims could learn to live and work together in a sensible way, thus counteracting radicalization and divide.

The conference was a huge success. 48 people were planned to attend, but twice as many showed up. Both religious leaders, traditional leaders, government representatives and young people were among the participants, and together they committed each other to work for peace and reconciliation across a variety of levels.

It has been a pleasure to see examples of how inspiration can go across our partners. In June 2017, Danida funds were obtained through the Danish Mission Council Development Management Department to start an agricultural project in Cameroon (The Kaële region), based on the experience of a similar project in Mali.

The target groups for these projects are especially women and young people, and the activities will include goat breeding, compost production and kitchen gardens. Representatives from Eglise Fraternelle Luthérienne du Cameroun (EFLC) have been to Mali to find inspiration, and the project in Cameroon is already set to start in late summer 2017. In addition to the support from Danida, Mission Afrika will also raise money for the project in other ways.

The human contact

It is no longer long-term missionaries who carry out the majority of our activities. By the end of June 2017, Anne Karin and Peter Michael Lauritzen returned with their children to Denmark, after many years of great and dedicated efforts in Nigeria (City Ministries), for which they deserve a big round of applause and recognition. After his return, Peter Michael will have a five-month project in Denmark with the main purpose of investigating how Mission Afrika may play a role in relation to West Africans who have come to Denmark, for one reason or the other.

With Anne Karins and Peter Michaels return to Denmark, we have only got one team of salaried missionaries left, namely Mette and Claus Swartz Andersen, whose work with SAT-7 has just been prolonged with another two years, until September 2019. The board has not made a decision in principle to no longer send out missionaries, but in recent years, we have seen that the vast majority of places have found other forms of work that involve the local employees more directly, which give more meaningful and sustainable development. The security situation in several of the countries, in which we are engaged, is another reason that we are not sending out new missionaries at the moment.

Our partners are however very interested in receiving short-term representatives. In the autumn of 2017, we are sending a theologian and former missionary, Lene Skovmark, to Cameroon to organize courses and retreats for pastors and evangelists. Last autumn, we sent two doctors, Linda Wiuff and Ida Høgsbro off to the health clinic in Kangahun, Sierra Leone, and in spring 2017, two additional nurses were to have been sent to Sierra Leone as well. Their deployment was unfortunately hindered by a big case of corruption with our partner, The Anglican Diocese of Bo (ADB).

As a consequence of this case of corruption, a board meeting in June decided to suspend all of our project activities in Sierra Leone in the coming years (See more information on our website 14th of June 2017). The case involves the bishop and senior staff of the church, and it has led to a severe division in the church. We wish to maintain the partnership with ADB and will try to keep a good contact in the coming period. We hope that in a few years, we will once again have the opportunity to engage in projects in Sierra Leone. The cooperation with Mette and Alex Bjergbæk Klausen has as a consequence of the decision also been settled. After their return from their Missionary Mission in Sierra Leone, they were employed in a 20 percent position last year, focusing on ongoing development of ADB’s theological training activities. We are very grateful for the efforts made by Mette and Alex, and we are pleased that they will continue to be engaged in theological education activities in Africa, even though they are within a different context than Mission Afrika.

Since we do not send out missionaries like before, we need to be aware of how we still ensure good human relations between our partners and us.  This is where our diligent traveling partner-coordinators, other employees and our board members play a great and important role, but it is also important that we are constantly thinking about broadening our contacts. It is therefore very positive that we in the autumn can send four volunteers to Cameroon, as well as two forthcoming “adventure trips” to Cyprus (SAT-7) and Cameroon (Eglise Fraternelle Luthérienne du Cameroun), respectively. This will help strengthen the human and spiritual community between us and our partners. Both trips have already been fully booked, which we consider to be a very positive indication there there is a lot of interest in these partner visits.

We are also experiencing that it is a blessing and enrichment to receive guests from our partners who can inspire and challenge us. At the last annual representative meeting, we were visited by the resigning archbishop Nemuel Babba (Nigeria), and since then, Program Director George Makeen (SAT-7), Bishop Bartiwamus (Nigeria) and Reverend Doctor Samuel Dawai (Cameroon) have visited us. Bishop Peter Bartimawus’ visit was part of a process that we have begun with the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, to send historical Nigerian objects, that Danish missionaries have brought home, back to Nigeria. Elisabeth Holtegaard, who volunteers with Mission Afrika’s history in Nigeria, has put her great knowledge and commitment to the task and plays a key role in this exciting process.

Recycling in development

A lot has happened since the first Mission Afrika recycling store opened more than 30 years ago. Recycling has grown steadily with us, but also around us. Today we see a huge interest in recycling at other organizations and at municipal recycling sites and energy companies. The importance of commercial thrift stores and private recycling sale has also increased significantly.

That recycling is as popular as it is, is positive and can strengthen our opportunities, but the competitive situation also requires great demands on us and we must always consider how we can best apply ourselves. In 2016, we experience a decline in recycling revenue compared to the record year in 2015, and we must take that seriously.

Recently, we have focused on ensuring good payment solutions in all stores. Customers have less cash on them, and therefore it is important that you can pay by card or via mobile payment solutions. Almost every Mission Afrika thrift store now accepts Dankort and foreign credit cards, and the next step is the implementation of MobilePay.

Another important result in the recycling work is that all stores now share the same name and logo. This allows us to be known as a single, major player in the recycling field, and it offers many advantages in terms of marketing and advertising.

Many other initiatives have been launched to promote the interest of Mission Afrika’s thrift stores. For example, we have seen that Facebook as a sales channel is now seriously beginning to gain ground. Nevertheless, we are aware that our greatest value in recycling is the many volunteers. They deserve a big thank you and appreciation for the work they do in the stores and we need to be aware of how we can keep making it attractive and enriching to be part of the working community in a recycling shop.

During the spring’s five popular recycling rallies, a new collection campaign was launched. In the coming period, the collected money, will go towards the work of broadcasting Christian satellite television in the Middle East and North Africa via Mission Afrika’s partner SAT-7.

On the employee side of things, we have said goodbye and thank you for a great and good effort, to Lone Frøsig, who left as a recycling consultant in the Region East. Her replacement is Erik Haunstrup-Clemmensen, who we are looking very forward to working with. We also welcomed Line Baun, who is employed as a substitute for a six month period in Region North. In order to further strengthen the recycling area, the board has decided to appoint a Head of Mission Afrika Recycling. We hope to have the position filled by November 1st 2017.

The economy is stabilized

The economic recovery plan adopted by the Board in 2015, is nearing completion, and today we have a far more stable economy than we did two years ago. 2016 ended with a surplus of 2.9 million Kroner. We experienced unusually high revenue from inheritance, which was the reason for the good result and we are very grateful for the support and loyalty that these testamentary gifts express.

We are also grateful for the many gifts we receive each month from donors, thrift shops, congregations, associations, circles and foundations. It is a wonderful thing, to feel the desire to make a positive difference and support the important cause, that these gifts represent. At the same time, we should be aware that in we in 2016 saw a decline in both private gifts and recycling revenue. Since these two sources of income are very important to our economy, it is important that we work to reverse this development.

Earlier this year, the Board of Directors adopted a new fundraising strategy, and because of this decision we were able to hire Christina Søndergaard Møller as Mission Afrika’s new fundraiser in a time-limited project position. In collaboration with colleagues and volunteers, she will be responsible for collecting and fundraising.

Mission is the breath and heartbeat

Running a missionary work such as Mission Afrika’s – as it appears from this report – is a comprehensive affair.  It is therefore also important to remind ourselves and each other about what is central and fundamental in what we do.

Mission is the breath and heartbeat of the church and the Christians. It’s all about sharing what we have received. It is about bringing the gospel onto people around us. It is about working on the mission of God in the world. It is a big, important and amazingly exciting task, and we must fill humility and gratitude that we have a role to play here.

A big thank you to all of Mission Afrika’s international partners, Danish collaborators, employees and volunteers. Thank you for your community and cooperation on the mission task. May we also be able to pull together and be allowed to see the results of our labor in the coming years!

  1. june 2017